Protect Your Family

By: rickstooker
If disaster strikes, how will you tell your spouse and children what to do and where to go?

Bird flu, terrorism, floods, forest fires, earthquakes, blackouts and hurricanes -- the list of natural and human enemies seems to grow every day.

Storing up food and water and otherwise preparing to sit out a pandemic is standard advice regarding bird flu. But if a bird flu pandemic or other disaster strikes, chances are good you won't have everybody in your family safe at home.

You'll all have to get there first. From school, from work, from soccer practice -- the list goes on.

Of course, your first thought will be to just flip open your cell phone and speed dial your family.

Trouble is, everybody else will be doing the same thing.

According to a report: "Influenza Pandemic Simulation" by The World Economic Forum and management consultant Booz Allen Hamilton dated January 26, 2006 --

"Telecommunications will likely be overwhelmed early in the pandemic."

That includes all telephones and the Internet.

Radio and TV stations should remain open and will likely cooperate to broadcast public service announcements on school closings, etc. Possibly the government will take one or more networks over, and in some countries government could easily take over all media. Newspapers will presumably continue to operate.

That's fine and dandy, for the government telling us what's happening and what to do.

The problem will be people wanting to talk to family and friends, employers/employees and especially children.

Would shortwave radios and CB radios also be overwhelmed? Count on it.

Part of bird flu pandemic and other disaster planning must include making pre-arrangements that everybody involved understands and remembers.

Businesses should make arrangements beforehand with employees. Stay open? Stay open until government shuts them down? Close for the duration so everybody can stay home?

Children should understand how to get home if school closes. They should know how to get home on the public bus system if there're no school buses available. Maybe they have friends with a parent who's at home during the day. For children old and responsible enough, have them keep 5 twenty dollar bills hidden in their wallets for emergencies. Older children should look out for younger children.

Everybody's situation is different, and could change with your next career move or children going to different schools.

You must discuss every possibility with your spouse and possibly other family members in your locality (maybe Uncle Fred and Aunt Martha's house is the easiest place for the children to reach from school.)

If you know your neighbors with children going to the same schools, you can make arrangements with them to pick up all the neighborhood children and then watch them until parents arrive home.

Are either of you medical or emergency workers? You may be forced by duty or the government to remain at a hospital.

Police will also face hard choices. On September 11 New York City police performed heroically. In the aftermath of Katrina some New Orleans police did not.

Yet, it's also true that New York city police did not have to fear for the lives of their families, and New Orleans police did.

You'll also have to work out contigency plans. What if the children reach Uncle Fred and Aunt Martha's house but nobody is home even by 11 PM? What if you start sneezing and get shipped to a hospital emergency room in an ambulance?

Or if you start sneezing but the hospital is already full of bird flu patients? You need treatment but you don't want to spread bird flu to your family.

You must not only decide where you want to sit out a bird flu pandemic or other disaster and stock it up, you must make sure that all your family knows how to get there.

You should also set up a back up location.

Maybe your home is flooded or threatened by a forest fire. Where could you go? Maybe you have an aunt and uncle 30 miles outside of town. Or could meet at the entrance of a large shopping center.

There're no simple answers, because everybody is in a different situation.

But you must start planning now -- and make sure all your family knows what to do and where to go -- for a day the cellphones stop working.
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